Parents of teens worry. Parents of teen drivers worry even more, and with good reason. Car crashes are the leading cause of death of teens, according to the CDC. In 2016, more than 1,000 people died in car crashes involving teens between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Fatal crashes involving teens increased by 14 percent in the summer. That means now is the time to talk about summer driving safety tips with your teens.
That good news is that teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and we can improve the safety of young drivers on the road. Here are some key points to make as we head into the summer season.
Remember, your teen is still a new driver, even if they’ve had their license a year. Parents need to continue to coach their teens on safe driving long after they’ve completed drivers ed and hit the road solo. They are inexperienced and need guidance. These safety conversations need to be ongoing.
Don’t drive distracted – Distracted driving can be deadly driving
That may sound dramatic, but it’s true. Taking your eyes off the road can have disastrous consequences. 60 percent of teen driving crashes involve distracted driving.
First and foremost, put the phone down. Better yet, turn it off and put it in the glove box or trunk or somewhere out of reach. For more info, tips and a virtual reality simulation that can make the split second consequences real to teens, check out the It Can Wait website.
Help teens see that distracted driving typically involves devices but it can also be something like eating or applying makeup in the car. They need to focus on the road, nothing else.
Obeying the speed limit isn’t just legal driving, it’s safe driving. Of all motor vehicle deaths involving a teen driver, AAA reports that 29 percent of them involved speeding.
As parents, we are often in a rush. Emphasize to your kids that arriving safely is most important, even more so than being on time.
Remind kids to wear their seatbelts
Wearing a seat belt seems obvious. However, of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Even more concerning is that the majority of teens involved in fatal crashes that year were not wearing seat belts. The importance of wearing a seatbelt is a point worth stressing again. And again.
Properly wearing a seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. Also remind kids that, when driving friends, they need to make sure every passenger is buckled up. Model properly wearing and checking passenger seat belts when you’re driving, too.
Get the car checked out
Taking the car in for a safety check up is something DriversEd.com recommends, and it’s a great idea as well as a teachable moment. Knowing how to take the car in for service checks is a good life skill for teens to have. Teach them how to make the appointment and ask your technician to review the safety systems in the car, including brakes, air bags, and tire pressure.
Use extra caution at night
When the sun goes down, the risk does up, especially in the summer. Data show a 22 percent increase in the average number of nighttime crashes per day involving teen drivers between Memorial Day and Labor Day, compared to the rest of the year
Also, if kids are sleepy, they shouldn’t be driving. Encourage them to call you rather than drive drowsy.
Expect your teen to follow all the laws
Many states have graduated drivers license laws that limit the number of passengers a teen can have in their car at a time. Expect your kid to follow those laws. They exist for good reasons, and they are working to bring down the number of auto fatalities involving teens. But they only work when the laws are followed.
Also, friendly reminder that you can make rules yourself and they can be stricter than your state laws. You’re the parent, you call the shots.
Keep sunglasses handy
Days are longer in the summer, and wearing sunglasses can cut down on brightness, glare, and reflection that make it hard to see. Get a pair with 100% UV protection. It’ll not only make it safer to drive, it can protect their eyes.
Summer is a ton of fun. These summer driving safety tips for teens will make it more likely that they will enjoy not only this summer but many more to come.
For additional resources, check out the AAA Guide to Teen Safety or the Ford Driving Skills for Life online classes, both of which are free, or DriversEd.com, which has free resources and courses that are $25. This post is not at all sponsored, I’m just sharing helpful resources.